Global Futures Laboratory’s Diane Pataki, Enrique Vivoni elected AAAS Fellows

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals, has elected two outstanding faculty from the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory to the newest class of AAAS Fellows, among the most distinct honors within the scientific community. Additionally, Sara Brownell, who has an appointment with the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, also was elected.

Diane Eve Pataki

For distinguished contributions in urban ecology, particularly for contributions bridging urban planning, health, social sciences and ecological sciences.

Pataki is a Foundation Professor and director of the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. She previously served as the associate vice president for research and as a professor in the School of Biological Sciences, with an adjunct appointment in the Department of City & Metropolitan Planning.

Her work is transdisciplinary and has spanned the impacts of climate change on ecosystems, coupled human-natural processes related to urban CO2 emissions, and the role of nature, greenspace and forestry in urban sustainability.

“Everyone is looking for solutions to rising heat and climate change,” Pataki said. “Trees are a particularly good solution for climate change adaptation, but in highly urbanized cities like Phoenix, there’s not that much room to plant trees, so you need to be able to target designs or landscapes that work on a pretty small scale.”

Pataki’s research focuses on finding the right trees for the right environments so cities can make informed decisions on what type of landscape is best. She also looks at how much water is needed to maintain those trees.

“You can have a tree canopy, even in the desert, and it doesn’t cost as much water as people think,” Pataki said. “But the watering methods have to be different. The sprinkler irrigation that people use for their lawns is not appropriate for trees. You have to use deep watering; otherwise, the tree canopy declines. Desert cities can maintain these trees, but we have to pay attention to infrastructure, management and stewardship.”

Pataki is a Fulbright Global Scholar, a James B. Macelwane Medalist, a Leopold Leadership Fellow and a fellow of both the American Geophysical Union and the Ecological Society of America.

She is the chief specialty editor for the Urban Ecology section of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, and a member of the National Science Foundation Directorate for Biological Sciences Advisory Committee and the Advisory Committee for Environmental Research and Education. She has previously served as a program director in the NSF Division of Environmental Biology and as a member of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Board of Scientific Counselors. She is also currently serving as vice president for Science of the Ecological Society of America.

Enrique R. Vivoni

For outstanding achievements integrating scientific, engineering and sustainability principles in water resources management.

Vivoni’s research focuses on hydrologic processes and their interactions with ecologic and atmospheric phenomena, with an emphasis on semiarid and arid regions of North America.

“I view my research as representing ASU’s approach of interdisciplinary, use-inspired global impact, which is closely aligned with the AAAS mission,” Vivoni said. “As such, it is quite humbling to be recognized as a fellow of AAAS, as this adds a new set of responsibilities to scale up ASU’s hydrologic science, engineering and sustainability efforts for the benefit of society.”

Over the course of his career, he has pursued fundamental research in the hydrology of natural and urban systems and linked the work to sustainability and resource management. In addition, his work on the U.S.-Mexico border region has led to sustained binational collaborations.

Vivoni has won a number of local and national awards in recognition of the interdisciplinary nature of his work on water, climate and landscapes of North American deserts. These awards include serving twice as the Fulbright-Garcia Robles Scholar, the Leopold Leadership Fellowship, the Huber Prize for Civil Engineering Research, the Quentins Mees Research Award from the Arizona Water Association and the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers.

Sara Brownell

For high impact contributions to advancing inclusion, diversity and equity in STEM education through research and national outreach demonstrating how to support learning in all students, whatever their needs.

Brownell is a neuroscientist-turned-full-time education researcher who teaches undergraduate biology while studying biology education.

At Arizona State University, Brownell has received six teaching and/or mentoring awards and directs the Research for Inclusive STEM Education Center. As a science faculty member with an education specialty, she uses both qualitative and quantitative data to better understand how to create more inclusive undergraduate biology learning environments. Her research has been internationally recognized and featured in Science Magazine, as well as in numerous news outlets, including The New York Times, CNN and Scientific American.

Brownell’s interests in undergraduate biology education are broad, but her current work has focused on three main avenues. She investigates the impact of undergraduate research experiences on students, specifically students enrolled in course-based research experiences. She has developed a programmatic assessment for biology majors that focuses on the core concepts of biology. She also explores issues related to access and inclusion in undergraduate biology, specifically the experiences of women, religious students, LGBTQ students and transfer students.

She has published 104 total publications and has been awarded national research awards.

The AAAS Fellows tradition stretches back to 1874. AAAS Fellows are a distinguished cadre of scientists, engineers and innovators who have been recognized for their achievements across disciplines ranging from research, teaching and technology to administration in academia, industry and government, to excellence in communicating and interpreting science to the public.

The new fellows will receive an official certificate and a gold and blue rosette pin to commemorate their election (representing science and engineering, respectively) and will be celebrated later this year during an in-person gathering when it is feasible from a public health and safety perspective. The new class will also be featured in the AAAS News & Notes section of Science in January 2022.

For more on the full slate of ASU faculty to receive this honor for 2021, click here.